Bogland by Seamus Heaney: Summary and Analysis

The speaker says they have no wide open land to cut a big sun in the evening. Everywhere the eye accepts encroaching horizon unwillingly. The eye surrenders itself to the Cyclops's eye of a small lake in the mountain. Their unfenced country is a bog that keeps crusting between the sights of the sun.

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

The colonizers have taken away the skeleton of great Irish elk (deer). This skeleton had been set up as an astounding crate full of air. Butter sunk under, more than hundred years ago, was recovered salty and white. The ground itself is kind. Black butter has been missing its last definition, melting and opening underfoot, by millions of years. The digger will never dig coal here. In the peat, they will find only the waterlogged trunks of great firs. These trunks will be as soft as pulp. Their pioneers keep striking inwards and downwards. Every layer they strip seems camped on before. The bog holes might be Atlantic leakage. The wet center is bottomless.

The poem 'Bogland' is a poem on Irish nationalism and historical record of Ireland. Seamus Heaney, as an Irish poet, goes to define Ireland as a bog land. By using the pronoun 'we', the poet has shown his love and regard towards his country. The poem was written after the period of Ireland's independence from British colonization. The speaker clearly indicates that they have no prairies to slice a big sun in the evening. It indicates that Ireland has not enough open land. Similarly, the poet is all aware that "they have taken the skeleton of the Great Irish Elk". Here 'they' indicates the colonizer.

Love for country, regard for Irish history, and exploration of Irish culture are the major concerns of this poem. The poet goes on introducing archaeological findings received from Bogland while digging it out. The real Ireland is inside bog. The bog has not swallowed Irish identity instead it is protected under the peat. Butter, waterlogged trunks, coal, the bog holes, and black butter are still in bog. These are the real indicators of Ireland and its past.

The poet still feels proud on Ireland and the existence of Irish nationality. In comparison to other big lands of world, Ireland is a bog. However, this bog is always bottomless. Its history and origin has no definite limitation.

The more one goes on exploring into the bogs, the more and longer Irish history comes into the surface. Here the poet indicates that Ireland is still alive and it has solid history. The Irish pioneers are striking inwards and downwards. They are always entering into various layers of bog. In each layer, there is Ireland and Irish culture. Even after the attempt of colonizer, Ireland has preserved its history, glory, and specific identity.

As a modern poet, Seamus Heaney has composed this poem in free verse. Like some of his other poems, the poem is composed in twenty eight lines with four lines in each stanza. The poet has not considered any element of musicality consciously. The poem lacks rhymes and other specific musical qualities. Use of first person pronoun by the poet hints that it is a descriptive and meditative poem. Use of imagery is one of the great stylistic aspects of this poem. Similarly, the use of metaphor, personification, topic of comparison are some other rhetorical strategies adopted in this poem. The first line of the poem compares the poet’s country indirectly to another one when he says they have no prairies. The most effective technique of the poem is the powerfully uses metaphor e.g. our unfenced bog. This line suggests that actually Ireland is a bogland. Similarly, the poet uses simile while comparing 'waterlogged trunks with pulp'. Some where the poet has also used personification. Personification can be seen in the line - the ground itself is kind. Here human quality of kindness has been attributed to the ground. Similarly, in this poem the message comes from the last line-the wet centre is bottomless.

As a modern poem, this poem heavily rests on the use of imagery. Visual images, color images, and images related to taste have been used here altogether. A big sun, encroaching horizon, a tarn, skeleton, peat, coal, water logged trunks and bog holes appear as the visual imagery. All these visual imagery are the property of bog land. All these are discovered/ explored during investing Irish culture and Ireland. The poet has used black and white as color images. He indicates that the butter has been turned into blackness from its white color. It means the survival of Irish culture is a long span of time. The world 'salty' has been used as the image of taste. From the perspective of imagery, the poem is well balanced and highly suggestive.

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